It's' been 5 and 1/2 months since my previous post in this series, (sorry) so I'll need some time to get back on track. Okay....
What is Time?
In 9th grade, my physics teacher told me that time is something that could never be clearly defined. Wikipedia defines it as a measure in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future, and also the measure of durations of events and the intervals between them.....perhaps a bit confusing.
In music, time refers to the time signature, or meter of a song. Despite the large number of time signatures in existence, there are only 2 meters: duple and triple.
Duple: DOWN, up, DOWN, up
Triple: DOWN, up, up, DOWN, up up
All time signatures are derived from, or variations of, these 2 meters.
Time signatures define how many beats are in a measure (or taala), and the notational duration of each beat. In western music, it's represented as a fraction:
This time signature signifies that there are 3 beats per measure, where each beat has the duration of a quarter note. This is an example of triple meter.
Why do we need it?
Time signatures do more than just indicate the structure of the song. Each time signature has certain rhythms associated with it. For example, 3/4 indicates waltz time. 6/8 is commonly used for faster dance music. My point is, time and rhythm go hand in hand.
Listening to music and trying to identify the meter, time signature, and the rhythms are excellent ways of improving your sense of music. Later, think back and try to group certain rhythms with certain meters. You'll soon find patterns emerge, correlating these 3 elements. Unfortunately, this is something you need to experience for yourself. Listening to uncommon time signatures helps a lot. My personal favorite signature is 7/8
How does this help compose?
Any rhythm that you play has to finally fit in your meter. Understanding how rhythm intertwines with time signatures can help you make "intelligent choices" in your music. For example, if you want your song to be interesting, the first thing you need is a catchy rhythm. Okay.........how do you get compose a catchy rhythm? Force yourself to use a catchy time signature, of course!
For example, 5/4, 7/8, 11/8, 13/8, 15/16
I think you get the picture. Any signature with an odd number of beats, will easily churn out an interesting rhythm. Unfortunately, 3/4 can't make this category, because it's pretty much over used, and, a bit slow to form an intriguing rhythm.
I realize that this has been a rather ambiguous blog. There's really nothing here about how to come up with a complex rhythm. I'll delve into that a later time......hopefully. Until then, keep analyzing.
As a quick recap, in my previous blog, I mentioned the power of 2 notes to form an interval. That's all wonderful, but the whole article was more about theory; useless knowledge if you can't apply it. So how do you use those 2 notes? Well, lets look back at an example used in the previous blog:
I used to think that a melody required at least 2 note. Well, Peter Kadar most certainly plays a one note melody (ignoring the chords) in that video. So, how does he do it?? If it's possible to play a one note melody and still maintain interest, then there has to be something more fundamental to music; a foundation that melody is built upon. So, what is it? (Hint: read the title of this article)
Rhythm is a part of human instinct. It's what gets our foot tapping. It's something that we all naturally possess. When we walk, we walk with rhythm. When we talk, we talk in rhythm. When we're angry, WETALKSOFASTTHATNOONEKNOWSWHATWERESAYING! When we try to make a point, we E-NUN-CI-ATE EV-ER-Y SYL-LA-BLE. All of this is rhythm! We each have our own rhythmic style, and yet, it's something that unites us all.
There's only one difference between this, and musical rhythm: in music, rhythm has a pattern; mostly, one that's repetitive. In music, a rhythm consists of upbeats and down beats. A down beat is a STRONG beat - one where we feel the impact. An upbeat is the exact opposite: a lighter beat. Here's a simple way to look at it: when you tap your foot to a song, every time you hit the floor, that's a down beat, and vice versa. Take a look at the following rhythm:
BOOM boom BOOM boom BOOM boom BOOM BOOM
All the BOOMs are downbeats, and the booms are upbeats. Take another look at Peter Kadar's one note melody and try to find the upbeats and downbeats.
That covers the expressive/intensity of a rhythm, but of course, you also need a pattern (how many hits per beat?). You can't discuss rhythmic patterns without mentioning time signatures (aka. taala....sorry for leaving out carnaatic terms and concepts in the past couple of articles). We'll take a look at that in the next article, but for now, don't worry too much about it. Just drum the objects around you to find a rhythm you like. Then, you can add notes to each hit of your rhythm, and that's it! You're composing! This trick has helped me out in a few tight situations, so keep at it, and remember: have fun.
I know a lot of musicians want to get into composing, but don't know where to begin. Don't worry, this is something we all go through. I'm not professional, but I have been composing for about 6 years now, and I have freelanced; I've handled my share of projects. So, I'd like to quickly shed some light on how to get started with composing.
One Note Wonder
Okay, let's get down to it: how do you start composing? Simple: you start with the first note! It can be any note; just pick your favorite, or even close your eyes and play a random note. What do you do next? Play another note! Just keep it in the vicinity. Now, don't roll your eyes at me! What you now have, is a melodic interval. These 2 notes can define your whole song! They have character, they have a certain mood! Don't underestimate the importance of a melodic interval!
Now, before you start saying,"Well that's great, but I'm not a score writer, so this is useless", I'd just like to say: it doesn't matter what kind of musician you are, the principal is just the same! For example, take jazz music. Why jazz? It's one of the most complex forms of music in existence! You need insane performing skills accompanied by an equally thorough knowledge of music theory. That being said, check out what this guy, Peter Kadar, can do using just ONE NOTE on the blues scale. Sure enough, he proceeds from one note, to TWO NOTES. Again, there it is - a melodic interval. It's powerful enough to hold it's own in a song.
There are still so many times when I have to compose for a project, and my brain just wont get into gear. At times like that, what I do is get back to this tip - playing those first 2 notes really is enough to get your creativity going. So, I hope you realize what you can do with just one or two simple notes, and you have now "officially" started composing. What do you do after those 2 notes? Well that's for another article. How do you use those 2 notes? THAT, is where your creativity comes into play. Don't worry, you don't have to figure it out on your own; there are just certain things you have to pay attention to. THIS will be the topic for my next blog. Until then, keep practicing.